Category Archives: Experian

What blood-powered cell phones mean for the future

A year ago we wrote about engineer Jim Mielke’s design for a wireless cell phone that slides under your skin and is powered by blood. Since then social networks have continued to scale — Oprah joined Twitter, Twitter saved Iran, Facebook got the stream — yet as they continue to fail to make money, advertisers are starting to wonder what gives. Facebook, the No. 2 darling child of the media, has projected U.S. ad revenues in 2009 of about $230 million, which works out to less than half a penny per hour per user.

Advertisers can understand the challenge of social media if they play the game all the way forward. In a few years, wireless internet devices will be so small they will plug into your body, like Mielke’s prototype above. This isn’t science fiction. Humans are already cyborgs — you already know people with fake breasts, false teeth, glasses, contacts, laser eye surgery, hip and knee replacements. You drive a car, a mechanical extension of your legs, and you fly like a bird on vacation. Yesterday we had lunch with a fine man who had a valve in his heart mended and was back up walking within a week. There are now 4.1 billion mobile subscribers on the planet and their radio toys are getting smaller. Andersonian free-pricing logic says the cyborg conversion is inevitable.

Telepathy is coming. Really.

When human crutches turn into human connections, people will have incredible control over sharing content. Your eyes might record a scene; you’ll touch your earlobe to send the video to a friend. As data transmission moves back to pure human-to-human contacts, social media will revert to our native, pre-history connections. Advertisers face a barrier because in social media, human bonds do not require third-party sponsorships. There is no external content to sponsor. Data collectors, who now hope to turn Facebook’s social streams into the Experian of the future, also may hit a wall when human connections can no longer be intercepted.

All is not lost, of course. People have always craved outside entertainment. You can’t talk all the time, so we’ll watch TV for a while yet. And gadgets with shiny chrome or glass will be around for a while, meaning marketers can track data being sucked through the devices that fulfill our hunter-gatherer-sexual-status-signaling instincts. But the irony of these inevitable media shifts into human minds is they will take us back to where we were in 10,000 B.C.: outside TV, radio and print washing over us to fulfill the campfire entertainment role, and human-to-human social media in which we control the intercourse ourselves. Marketers, like storytellers from a clan far away, will be welcome in one place and not the other.

Your Facebook bikini photo is now being used by marketers

Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang recently sketched five eras of the social web, including the upcoming period of “social context” — where marketers scrape demographic insights from your online social networking behavior. The idea is to use the real interactions you’re chatting about online, which describe the deep desires of your soul, to replace the old marketing list data swabbed from credit card transactions by companies such as Experian.

Several data companies are already mining social media. Colligent monitors online social profiles to build market analysis of consumers’ music preferences, helping Hollywood Records, for example, discover that the Jonas Brothers have more Latin American fans than previously thought. And while television technology is not yet two-way social media, TiVo has begun selling data from every remote click to understand real TV viewing behavior.

Wired notes that all of this new data is incredibly valuable:

“If TiVo’s graphs show that slow-motion bikini babes frolicking on beaches cause some TiVo users to hit rewind in order to watch an ad they had been fast-forwarding through, you can bet advertisers are going to want to know that. Alternatively, if a local news station finds out everyone fast-forwards through stories about rescuing cats that are stuck in trees, they’ll know to leave such extrications untelevised.”

By observing real media behavior and real social interactions, marketers may finally understand what consumers want. Be careful what you tweet for.

Photo: Libertinus

Pepsi Zeitgeist, or Twitter as the database of the now

We’re flying to Austin’s SXSW Interactive conference tomorrow, you know, that geekfest where people who don goggles to peer at what’s coming down the internet highway get together for illumination and ale. While there is a lot of silly crap floating around from brands trying to edge in on the event — P&G made a clichéd, lame attempt last night by enlisting the usually brilliant David Armano in trying to hawk Tide T-shirts for charity — Pepsi is the brand that has hit coopted event coolness out of the park.

Pepsi launched a microsite that compiles Twitter text feeds from anyone mentioning what they’re doing at the SXSW conference — perfect for internet addicts arriving in droves, trying to plug in. Beyond the graphic gimmicks, the Pepsi site taps the real power of Twitter as the database of the now, or the only tool we know of that gives you huge sets of information on what people in the world are doing at this very instant. Experian has profiles and demographics and psychographics. TransUnion can slice and dice your credit report. But who else can tell if we’re chilling with a friend, about to eat a taco?

If you are still new to Twitter, visit its search menu here, type in a topic (or your brand), and find out what millions of people are saying about it at this very instant.